7 Wine Emergencies (And How to Fix Them in a Pinch)

7 Wine Emergencies (And How to Fix Them in a Pinch)



You can't tell by looking at it that your favorite wine is about to betray you. You didn't do anything wrong. You fought your way through rush hour crowds to procure it, you chose a food pairing that's a love letter to its aromas and curves.

But when you go to have that first glass of it, annoyance strikes. The cork snaps off in the neck, or worse: It crumbles. Now what?

There are drinking problems -- those that require tearful interventions and soul-searching -- and then there are drinking problems: broken and stubborn corks, warm bottles, and red wine stains left behind on white cushions and countertops. This edition of Snooth's Wine Survival Guide breaks down seven common wine crises, and how to solve them with what's on hand.

Want more wine?

Do you have a go-to "just for fun" wine? Do you have any favorite bottles for under $15? Head to the Snooth forums and let us know. While you're there, weigh in on our Global Tasting Initiative or the best and worst names for wineries.

Solution: A wooden spoon

The best defense against a stubborn or busted cork is a great corkscrew: always make sure you have a good waiter's friend with a nice long, grooved worm at your disposal (the groove offers even better grip on the cork). But plenty of waiter's friend-wielding wine drinkers have still told us that they encounter the dreaded immoveable cork from time to time. If you have all the time in the world -- or are dealing with a particularly old or special bottle -- go pick up an Ah-So, a specialized corkscrew with thin prongs that slip between the outside of the cork and the neck of the bottle.

If you're in a hurry, one way to get the cork out is to get the cork in. Wrap the neck in a towel or cloth, and use the handle of a wooden spoon -- or even a mascara tube or Sharpie marker (tie a string around it for easy retrieval in the event that you dunk it) -- and push the cork down into the wine. Pouring the wine gets a little trickier, but you'll definitely get that precious liquid out of the bottle.

Solution: An unbleached coffee filter

Similar to the cork that won't move at all, one approach to coping with a cork that snaps in half upon removal is to push the remaining pieces down into the wine itself. In this instance, however, you'll be left with unnpleasant shards and splinters of wood swimming in your Syrah.

Enter the everyday, unbleached coffee filter. Pour the wine through the filter into a decanter (or in an especially tight pinch, straight into the stemware). Even better: if you have cheesecloth tucked into some corner of your kitchen, it's an ideal way to filter out anything you don't want to drink, including fine sediment.

Solution: Salt

You want to drink that Champagne or white wine, but it's still grocery-store-shelf room temperature. There are several ways to achieve a quick chill. Lay down a layer of ice and salt in a bucket, plant your bottle in the center, and continue layering ice and salt until its covered. Then fill the bucket with cold water.

To pick up a quick chill on an everyday bottle, wrap it in wet paper towels and stick it in the freezer for no longer than 10 minutes.

Solution: A tree

It typically happens at a picnic. There's a lovely blanket in the grass, a basket full of food, a fun wine selected for outdoor drinking ... and someone forgot to pack the corkscrew (and unfortunately didn't opt for a screwtop bottle). If you're truly lacking in all other tools -- including those narrow items you can use to push the cork into the bottle -- it's time to try a neighboring tree. Wrap the bottle in something soft (your blanket, a sweatshirt), and firmly rap the bottom of the bottle onto a reasonably flat section of wide tree branch.

Note: If you've reached this level of desperation, be patient and consistent; I recently tested this method with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and the trunk of an old oak tree, it took 42 firm taps before the cork began to squeeze out.

Solution: White wine

If you tip a glass of Pinot Noir onto your blouse, couch, or carpet, dab the excess liquid, and then reach for the Chardonnay. Pour an equal amount of the white wine over the red stain; the white will dilute the pigmentation in the red, and make the stain easier to remove. Once you've dealt with the immediate stain and are preparing for future ones, consider investing in a stash of Wine Away -- it actually works.

Solution: Empty half bottles

There are gadgets and wine accessories galore meant to help solve the problem of leftovers -- vaccums, inert gas sealants -- and there are diehard believers and detractors for each of them. The goal in preserving wine is to minimize both the amount of oxygen in the bottle, and the surface area of the wine that is exposed to that oxygen. To reduce both, transfer your leftovers to half bottles, recork them, and keep them in the fridge (the cold slows down the reactions that degrade the wine).

Solution: A recipe that you do love

You picked up some cheap-and-cheerful wines for the beach, or some co-workers gave you some less-than-stellar bottles at your last dinner party. If you don't feel like filling up your glass with them, keep them on hand for cooking. Yes, we know the adage that if you wouldn't drink it, don't put it in your food, but let's not go overboard: there's a large category of wines that wouldn't be your first choice for your glass, but that do just fine in a glaze or braise. And don't forget sangria -- a delicious solution to any surplus supply of run-of-the-mill reds or whites.

Want more tips & tricks? Check out our first Wine Survival Guide about wine pairings, and our series on easy-drinking, cheap red wine.

Meet Snooth's Favorite Experts

The Grapevine
In this weekly feature, we pose 10 burning questions to prominent wine experts -- we'll pick their brains about wine myths, trends, and the best values on the market.

10 Questions for: Tom Wark

Tom Wark, wine PR guru and author of the wine blog Fermentation, talks about the beauty of Sonoma Valley, the lasting power of Bourbon, and the pairing of sparkling wine and potato chips.


Mentioned in this article


Comments

  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 6,141

    Excellent tips, Carly. Thanks! I will have to remember the one about the tree!

    Apr 26, 2010 at 12:51 PM


  • The salt in ice method definitely works. It was a go-to when I served high-end whites in restaurants that were best stored in a wine room and not a fridge. The only thing I would add is to occasionally give the wine a twist. Unless you have it entirely immersed, the wine in the neck won't warm quickly unless mixed (try it yourself with a half-covered bucket - and no one wants a warm first glass). It also seems to generally down the whole bottle's temperature down more rapidly.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 3:53 PM


  • On a trip to paris i was staying with the younger group at a hostel and on the first night we bought a number of $2 to $3 bottles of cotes du rhone. Realizing we did not have a corkscrew, i found out that two of my friends had swiss army knives. Of course both knives had no corkscrew. I figured out that i could us the bottlecap/flat screwdriver piece. I dug it into the cork (synthetic corks were actually harder) and was able to get a grip on the cork where i can twist and pull it out to the point where i could remove it with my teeth!!! Talk about MacGyver. No glasses, just pass the bottle The next night we just used the wine key at the store!

    Apr 26, 2010 at 4:20 PM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 968

    I never thought of using an unbleached coffee filter to rescue one of my wines when a cork breaks and pieces get into the bottle.
    A great idea.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 4:20 PM


  • Snooth User: hoopdriver
    249104 28

    Now that's a practical list! Chose a variation on the sangria solution (#7) just this weekend. My wife had purchased a cab blend that turned out to be slightly corked. Any worse and it would have gone back to the store, but with the addition of fresh lemon, orange, & pink grapefruit, a little dry vermouth and some agave nectar it became a delicious sangria that transformed an annoying failure into an afternoon hit.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 5:15 PM


  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 852

    Pink grapefruit is a great idea - I've turned some lame wine into pretty delicious sangria, I'm definitely adding grapefruit to the mix next time!

    I was also just sent a video of the tree trick at work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq7D...

    He got it a little faster than we did!

    Apr 26, 2010 at 5:31 PM


  • Actually, Carly, if you count the number of times he hit the tree with the bottle, you'd see he hit it 49 times. You win!

    Apr 26, 2010 at 6:08 PM


  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 852

    Nice! Ok, that's excellent. He just seemed to pull it off so quickly - thanks for counting for me. :) Next time I'm recording my own video.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 6:14 PM


  • Snooth User: samantha gaw
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    356700 352

    I have heard the coffee filter trick before, but always worry whether it would also strip flavor/body/pigmentation. Certainly naturalist and modernist winemakers argue about fining and filtration all the time. I think I'd rather tooth-filter broken cork particles than lose part of the flavor profile the vintners intended.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 6:26 PM


  • The tree is a great tip. But what if the bottle has a screwcap?

    Apr 26, 2010 at 6:49 PM


  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 852

    Then you're most certainly in luck. :)

    Apr 26, 2010 at 7:01 PM


  • Snooth User: Claudia3
    376066 155

    I dumped a whole glass of my favorite zin on my favorite white blouse (not sure if I was more upset about the blouse or the loss of the wine). I ended up using a mixture of 1/2 Dawn dishwashing liquid & 1/2 hydrogen peroxide. I poured it on the blouse, rubbed it in, then washed it in cold water. You cannot tell it ever had a stain on it now. I keep a premixed bottle on hand. The garment must be washable, and you should test for colorfastness if not white. I've since used the trick for other kinds of stains, on colored garments, and it's worked every time.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 7:59 PM


  • Snooth User: WendyIB
    453388 1

    Excellent tips especially for a beginner like myself. Thanks again.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 9:46 PM


  • This an old auto mechanics trick to open a bottle of wine, sans opener; twist a self-tapping screw or wood screw into the cork, leaving approx 1/4 inch of the screw showing, pull screw head with a pair of pliers. It takes some finess/muscle, but it works.

    Apr 26, 2010 at 9:51 PM


  • Many years ago — more than I like to think — I happened, in Bologna, on an oenological shop that stocked everything you could possibly need for dealing with wine. In those happy days I used to bottle some wine. Among the implements I bought was a 'pescatappi', a cork-fisher, and mighty glad I am to have got it. It consists of a wooden handle to which are attached three long slender metal rods, each curved at the end into a little hook. Down it goes into the bottle and draws up the disintegrated cork. Dead simple, no? With a little ingenuity you ought to be able to construct your own.
    All thanks to my fellow-commentators for their techniques for lifting wine stains!

    Apr 27, 2010 at 3:11 AM


  • Many years ago — more than I like to think — I happened, in Bologna, on an oenological shop that stocked everything you could possibly need for dealing with wine. In those happy days I used to bottle some wine. Among the implements I bought was a 'pescatappi', a cork-fisher, and mighty glad I am to have got it. It consists of a wooden handle to which are attached three long slender metal rods, each curved at the end into a little hook. Down it goes into the bottle and draws up the disintegrated cork. Dead simple, no? With a little ingenuity you ought to be able to construct your own.
    All thanks to my fellow-commentators for their techniques for lifting wine stains!

    Apr 27, 2010 at 3:12 AM


  • Snooth User: Raija
    333265 11

    I have read two things germane to this thread which I myself have not tried. One: you can cleanly break off the neck of a wine bottle. Two: if you have a wine (or coffee, tea, ketchup, etc.) stain that you cannot get out, stain the whole garment to match. I would not use my good wine that I spilled, however! I would go out and buy a cheap wine for that!

    Apr 27, 2010 at 10:38 AM


  • Snooth User: Raija
    333265 11

    I have read two things germane to this thread which I myself have not tried. One: you can cleanly break off the neck of a wine bottle. Two: if you have a wine (or coffee, tea, ketchup, etc.) stain that you cannot get out, stain the whole garment to match. I would not use my good wine that I spilled, however! I would go out and buy a cheap wine for that!

    Apr 27, 2010 at 11:04 AM


  • Snooth User: wineslob1
    465568 1

    I'm a big Wine Away fan, and found it about five years ago in a winery. It has saved my clothes, my carpets, and tablecloths. I like to give it as a hostess gift, too. slb

    Apr 27, 2010 at 12:09 PM


  • Here is our attempt at item #4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW5h...

    Apr 27, 2010 at 12:49 PM


  • Stain Rx is the best stain remover out there. I have been using it on red wine stains since 1969. Just touch it to red wine, iodine, berries (INCLUDING POMEGRANATE), fruit punch, cranberry juice, and the stains disappear in a second. Stains such as mascara, lipstick, blood, balsamic vinegar, vanilla extract and others come out with a little massaging and rinsing. Soak your diamond, gold and platinum jewelry in it for 20 minutes to overnight, you won’t believe it!
    By the way, the University of California - Davis did a study on red wine stain removal and the #1, ready to use winner was Stain Rx (a.k.a. Erado-Sol). It killed Wine Away which is available everywhere. Go to http://www.StainRx.com to see what else it does.
    As far as carpeting and upholstery:
    I use Stain Rx on carpeting and upholstery all the time and have the method down.
    First, I vacuum the entire carpet or piece of upholstery being treated. Then I clean the entire carpet or upholstery with my Hoover Steam-Vac, a carpet shampooer is at least as good, plus, I ONLY use warm water - no detergent at all. The Hoover sprays in water and vacuums it out. For the carpet I use the Steam-Vac and on upholstery I use the Steam-Vac attachments to do this. While the carpet or upholstery is still wet from this step, do the following;
    Depending on the size of the stain, put a “dot” of Stain Rx on your fingertip and rub out one stain at a time. After treating a stain, remove all of the soapy residue from that area using the instructions below and go on to the next stain.
    HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: You have to remove all of the soapy residue using the attachments from the Steam-Vac, carpet shampooer or a wet/dry shop vacuum. RINSE OUT ALL OF THE SOAPY RESIDUE USING WATER AND THE VACUUM. If you leave Stain Rx in the area, dust will stick forming a gray spot in a few weeks. If this happens, just add water and remove all of the soapy residue.
    Let dry and marvel at the job you did.

    Apr 27, 2010 at 2:05 PM


  • Snooth User: mesut
    454743 1

    I have been trying to save the left-over wine in the refrigerator for a long time and it works; but you are better off drinkjing it in the next two days the most... Especially in the summertime, wine little more colder tastes great, too...

    Apr 29, 2010 at 5:01 AM


  • Snooth User: DZSF
    185780 8

    Forex (home depot in carpet cleaning section) is the best stain remover i've found....spray it on, rub it in, and blot it out with a paper towel or cotton towel.....truly magic and no need to steam clean.

    May 10, 2010 at 2:06 AM


  • Snooth User: DZSF
    185780 8

    Forex (home depot in carpet cleaning section) is the best stain remover i've found....spray it on, rub it in, and blot it out with a paper towel or cotton towel.....truly magic and no need to steam clean.

    May 10, 2010 at 2:06 AM


  • Snooth User: DZSF
    185780 8

    Forex (home depot in carpet cleaning section) is the best stain remover i've found....spray it on, rub it in, and blot it out with a paper towel or cotton towel.....truly magic and no need to steam clean.

    May 10, 2010 at 2:06 AM


  • Snooth User: DZSF
    185780 8

    Forex (home depot in carpet cleaning section) is the best stain remover i've found....spray it on, rub it in, and blot it out with a paper towel or cotton towel.....truly magic and no need to steam clean.

    May 10, 2010 at 2:07 AM


  • Marvelous suggestions....all seem to do the trick....in Vino Veritas smiles

    Jun 13, 2010 at 9:06 PM


  • Snooth User: penguinoid
    Hand of Snooth
    148296 1,216

    RE breaking off the neck of a wine bottle: whilst you can do this (e.g., sabering a champagne bottle -- I've seen this done, albeit with a metal ruler rather than a sabre), it's generally not a good idea unless you really know what you're doing. Having bits of broken cork in your wine may be annoying, but it's not as annoying as bits of broken glass...

    Jun 24, 2010 at 8:20 PM


  • Snooth User: jackster12
    591470 27

    Great tips... just want to add another twist to the one about chilling white wine quickly. If you're really in a hurry, get the salt and ice bowl ready... then pour the entire bottle of wine into a ziplock bag and dunk it. It will chill much faster (2-3 minutes). To pour it back in the bottle, tilt the bag and snip off one of the wine-free corners at the bottom. Goes back in easily, with or without a funnel.

    Oct 01, 2010 at 6:19 AM


Add a Comment

Search Articles


Best Wine Deals

  • $25.29
    26%off
    Byron Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley Usa California Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
    Byron Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley Usa California Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2008
  • $18.99
    17%off
    Mondavi Napa Reserve Cabernet
    Mondavi Napa Reserve Cabernet 2008
See More Deals »

Daily Wine WisdomMore Wine Tips








Snooth Media Network